American Audio VMS4 Traktor Controller Review
American Audio is breaking into the Traktor game and they are getting it done with their new controller the VMS4 Traktor Controller. Drawing off of the success of its Virtual DJ cousin, the VDJ VMS4, this version has been given an updated paint scheme and comes with a specal version of Traktor that is mapped perfectly to the controller. It’s a four-deck mid-range Traktor controller with some pretty cool features. We are going to break down the controller piece by piece to see how it stacks up against its Virtual DJ counterpart.
Construction wise this controller is a beast, it is made of solid metal and has four rubber corners that give it good traction on the DJ table. The rubber edges elevate the controller slightly off the table which is nice because DJ tables have tendencies to become soaked with beer or other foreign liquid substances and even this tiny bit of elevation just may save your controller from becoming extinct upon encountering moisture.
It is important to have something that feels road ready especially at this price point and this controller delivers one hundred percent in that capacity. The only foreseeable maintenance problems I could possible see might be bent faders if you were to throw this directly in a backpack. I would recommend a hard shell flight case just to make sure that nothing bad happens to it.
At first glance the controller looks exactly like the regular VMS4 except with a solid black body and red lettering instead of the regular white. The biggest cosmetic change is that American Audio has placed the names of each button’s function directly on the illuminated button. This makes it easy to identify what function each button does and is a huge improvement over the VDJ version because the old version has the text written directly on the controller and can be hard to see in dark environments.
The general layout of the VMS4 Traktor Controller is the same as the Virtual DJpredecessor, but there are a few minor tweaks here and there.
The platters come wrapped in a silicon wrapper, that we initially thought was a leftover from shipping. Once we had the unit up and running we quickly noticed that without the silicon barrier around the outside of the platters, nudging was impossible. The VMS4 relies on a physical connection with the platter to enable the midi signal to activate but the problem I found is that there is only one sensor on the entire platter so it does not really matter where you touch it because any contact will lead to impromptu scratching. I really dont like having to leave on a sleeve just because American Audio did not put in a second sensor but with the sleeve on the performance of the controller is vastly improved. The sleeve feels like a cheap fix for a sensor problem but when compared to the Virtual DJ version its exactly the same so it stands to reason that American Audio made it this way on purpose.
Scratching is definitely possible but I believe that it would be wise to adjust your internal scratch settings to lower the sensitivity. I found that with the included configuration of the platters it was a bit too jumpy and didn’t respond as fast as I would have liked when removing my hand from the platter. The scratching can definitely be done but do not expect to win a DMC championship with this thing.
When you turn this controller on it has a really nice look to it and one of the best features in my opinion are the knobs. Each knob has a slightly raised red slit to signify the amount of effecting you are doing to the selected function. What really makes these knobs stand out is the fact that the red line actually illuminates which makes it very easy to find your parameters in dark club settings. As for feel they are a little wobbly but feel firm and have a nice rubber grip to them. It’s important to have good feeling knobs, because most DJs like to use them a lot, and the VMS4 Traktor Edition has just that.
The crossfader feels pretty much like the older VMS4 and is very light and made of plastic. What makes the VMS4’s crossfader cool is that it has the ability to be changed out. Changing crossfaders is something the industry has seen less and less on new controllers but is a throwback to the good old days of DJing when one could buy a cheap mixer and a nice crossfader to learn their cuts on. These days with controller DJing taking over, less and less guys are even using the crossfader but its always nice to see love for the old school in some of the new controllers being released.
Mixing in Traktor is great and one of my favorite features is the high quality filter included in the software. American Audio included filter control on the controller but activating it is somewhat less than ideal. The filter control is located in the effects section of the mixer and to activate it one would think all you would have to do is press it down and begin twisting to filter. This is not the case, you must first activate the filter within the software by clicking manually on the filter button to activate and then, and only then, do you have the ability to filter out your mixes. It really struck me as odd that American Audio wouldn’t include a filter functionality that was already on, adding extra clicks takes the DJ out of the mix just a little bit more.
Transport, Loops, and Effects
One difference between the Traktor edition and the VDJ VMS4 are slight cosmetic differences with headphones drawn on the cue buttons and red ink at the top of the controller. Another thing to note is that the play and pause functionalities have merged into one button, this leaves you a button for deck switching, something new on the Traktor edition.
The button layout is pretty straight forward and I doubt that you will run into any trouble finding anything as the bulk of the buttons are relegated to the upper corners of the controller. Everything is clearly labeled and the layout matches the internal layout of Traktor quite well making it easy to get up and going on your mixes.
What stood out to me about the button clusters was that the sync button was not located at the bottom by the transport section but actually at the top of the controller by the pitch bend. This makes the sync button a little more discreet so your friends won’t rag on you for hitting it, as you will look like you’re just hitting effects.
Looping is pretty standard on this controller with the standard in, out, reloop, and loop buttons. It’s really easy to hit these buttons in Traktor and figure out how exactly they work. I also like that the ability to skip ahead 1 or 8 beats is included in the mapping as part of the loops section. This makes it possible to jump around songs and get to the high impact moments in time without missing a beat.
Navigation on this controller is handled with a touchpad in the center of the controller and you must press shift a load touchpad to load a track to a corresponding deck. I found it a bit annoying that I had to press an extra key to load a track but the load buttons also serve as your right and left click when using the touchpad in the middle to control the mouse on your computer.
What really makes this controller different are the Crate Scroll and Song Scroll strips located just inside of the decks next to the line faders. The left strip navigates your crates while the right strip allows you to quickly flip through your songs in that crate. These strips are some of the best navigation features I have seen on a controller because they eliminate the need for a back button thus saving you clicks and time.
My only concern is with water, when DJing sometimes it can get pretty hot in the booth and some DJs are notoriously sweaty people. If your hands get wet then you will experience some loss of control over the touch pads but this can be fixed by wiping your sweaty hands off before you try to get in the mix.
One of the ways the Traktor Edition American Audio VMS4 stands out is in the front panel on the controller. You have two mic control areas and numerous switches that control things like crossfader curve, crossfader reverse, deck assignments, cue mix, gain and full EQ control over two mic channels. Yes, full EQ control over two whole mic channels. This is something that you dont really see on everyday controllers and would be really useful if you needed two people with mics or needed two auxiliary sources of input.
Most controllers have no EQ control over the levels coming into the unit from the mics and American Audio really stands at the top of the heap in that regard. It’s worth noting that the EQs on the front like the rest of the controller are complete kills so mixing becomes super easy when you can completely eliminate and control the tones coming out of your board. I really wish my S4 could do that, and although a Native Instruments rep assured me that I could, I have yet to figure out how.
Ins and Outs
Ins and outs on this controller are amazing and it even functions as a stand alone mixer which means that DJs have incredible flexibility with how they perform with the VMS4 Traktor. It is possible to run CDJs or TimeCode Vinyl into the controller to control Traktor. It even has Q-Start inputs which allow for a special device to connect the controller to trigger the start of CDJs or any other DJ control device with a Q-Start output. The mic inputs can take either a 3 pin XLR cable or a quarter inch TRS cable and the balanced outs come in the form of 3 prong xlr outs. Included also are two stereo RCA outs (my favorite) one being a booth out and the other being a master out. This is really nice because in any given situation you will always have RCA or XLR input options available and the controller will give you the freedom to link up with virtually any industry standard mixer.
Having the right inputs is crucial because it’s never fun to show up to a gig with a controller and have no way of getting on the system. On the back you will also find the USB 2.0 port and ground connections for any peripheral devices that may need grounding. Being that this controller also doubles as a stand alone mixer it is dependent on a power supply to function in that capacity so keep an eye on your 6V power adapter that comes with it.
When setting up the controller you will find that American Audio has included a couple page document that provides detailed instructions about what settings you need to set your mixer to to get going. It is vitally important to pay attention to the document because we found that when importing just the TSI file it didn’t work exactly like it should have. We found an easy fix and that came in the form of following the step by step install instructions included in the box and we were up and mixing in no time.
The American Audio VMS4 Traktor Edition DJ controller is perfect for the amateur that wants to go pro or the bedroom DJ looking for a controller with a lot of flexibility. I find it hard to imagine many top DJs getting into this controller but for smaller acts there is definitely a place for the VMS4. If you are just getting into gigging or maybe just want a workhorse that will get the job done then this controller may be the one for you.
Until Next Time,